Small Wars Journal

The Matryoshka is Empty: Why Russia Doesn’t Really Matter

Sun, 03/06/2016 - 11:10am

The Matryoshka is Empty: Why Russia Doesn’t Really Matter

Robert Murphy

“Paper Tiger (noun): one that is outwardly powerful or dangerous but inwardly weak or ineffectual”


Russia’s alleged threat to American interests is exaggerated, taken well out of context by those that would benefit from sustained American defense spending, and only applicable as it relates to NATO’s expansion in the Baltic States. The only real Russian threat to American interests is if it should collapse.

If you could not find Abkhazia, South Ossetia, the Donets Basin, Transnistria or Crimea on a map until Russia intervened, then you’ve understood the relevance a Russian challenge represents. Judging by the absence of any meaningful international response to Russia’s incursions, you would also be in good company. The regions in which Russia chooses to intervene militarily simply do not matter to America, or the world. This is not because Russia does not have interests in more relevant areas; it is because Russia simply cannot intervene anywhere else.

Russia has no reach. Statistically Russia possesses the strongest military that can influence Europe, but strength is relative. Russia is strong because Europe is weak. Europe has abused America’s security spending for decades and has ended up with papier-mâché militaries that require American leadership and supervision to work together. European security cooperation is often limited to cost sharing measures rather than substantial increases to defense capabilities. Viewed simplistically against such an adversary, Russia’s relative military advantage is formidable, but reversible should Europe get serious about its own defense.

Russia is at a stalemate against an arguably inferior military in the Ukraine, and is logistically constrained to operations in the Donets Basin, close to its border and overwhelmingly populated by ethnic Russians. The Donets Basin, and Russia’s other adventures in the Crimea, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia have turned those areas into economic disaster zones that consume Russian resources and provide little in return. This hardly represents the reach or strategic acumen of an American near-peer competitor.

However, in the context of vital interests, our Article V commitments to the Baltic 3 (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) represent the only existential, albeit highly unlikely, intersection of competing Russian-American interests. To America’s and Europe’s detriment, the Baltic 3 (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) became full-fledged members of NATO in 2004. In return for their numerically insignificant contributions, they represent NATO’s most vulnerable, most feasible targets for Russian military aggression.

As recent models demonstrate, the Baltic three would be no match for a concerted Russian assault. Assuming the model accounted for the mobilization of the tens of thousands of reservists to compliment the combined 30,000 active Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian servicemen and women, predictions are that Russia could conquer the region in the course of a long weekend. Simulations also rightly highlighted the absence of armored NATO forces to counter Russia’s strength in that area. Further problems for NATO emerge due to the sophistication of Russian air defense capabilities. Lastly, and most alarmingly, the study reminded analysts of the post-USSR change in Russian nuclear doctrine, now referred to as ‘de-escalation’, in which tactical nuclear weapons may be used to respond to a successful NATO ground assault.

However, the model assumes a hypothetical environment that places the possibility of such an event into the realm of the absurd. Russia’s overwhelming domestic social and economic challenges suggest that Russia is far more likely to collapse than it is to take over three nations with an economic output and population dwarfed by New Jersey[i]. Furthermore, for all its bluster, the least beneficial circumstance for Russia would be a war with the world. Western exclusion from the group of eight (now seven), western sanctions and sagging fuel prices have been sufficiently crippling.

Further indicators that Russia is relatively unconcerned by security challenges from the Baltic, is that it has made a clear prioritization of resources to its southern military district. It is evidently more concerned over jihadist terrorism in the Caucuses and support for breakaway regions such as Abkhazia, South Ossetia and the Crimea, than it is in diminishing U.S. influence in the Baltics.

Some analysts point to Russia’s operations in Syria as an example of expanded capabilities. While true, it is still too early to judge how strategically relevant those capabilities are. Russia’s ability to turn aircraft to execute sorties and launch somewhat precise cruise missile strikes certainly bear watching and assessing, however, these operations are relatively simple. They exist in a permissive environment absent an anti-aircraft threat, and sidestep the complexity of combined arms land based maneuver and their corresponding sustainment requirements. Sustaining operations in Syria also required extraordinary logistical measures, particularly in shipping. Operating airfields as a guest of a host nation is an apples to oranges comparison to opening a theater and conducting prolonged ground combat in hostile territory.

The beneficiaries of an aggressive American foreign policy towards Russia are manipulating the relevance of the threat it poses. Unsurprisingly, they consist of our allies and our own parochial strategic thinkers. Europe (Germany in particular) is still smarting from the departure of almost a quarter million Americans and their families since 1990. Russia’s existence and their inability to address military problems in their own back yards (think Bosnia, Kosovo and the Ukraine) are unpleasant reminders that eventually they may have to spend some of their own money on their militaries. Nations like Poland and the Czech Republic bear deep reciprocating, historical scars of occupation, and expended substantial diplomatic capital to host the American missile defense system that President Obama scrapped. Both would appreciate the domestic assurance, and of course financial boon, of hosting thousands of well-subsidized Americans and their families.

Professional American Analysts and Strategists include clans of former Euro-warriors for whom Russia will always be the adversary, and whose hard work helped construct the international coalitions that proved vital to our operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. This bloc makes legitimate arguments about the trust building and interoperability that can only forward stationed forces can achieve. This argument assumes Europe will have the stomach and means to join us in another non-article V adventure like Iraq or Afghanistan. Europe’s armies are shrinking in both size and capability, as is the political will to support such a campaign.

Russia’s military deficiencies are unlikely to improve. Assuming the improbable conditions under which Russia’s flagging economy and ageing population will support planned military reforms, none of Russia’s initiatives really change the situation. Rather than address the capability gap between its ground combat units and their sustaining organizations, Russia chose to prioritize improvements such as ICBM delivery, ballistic missile submarines, and sea-based air defense. In effect, it has chosen to ignore the problems that limit its strategic reach in favor of systems that would deter American and Chinese challenges and intimidate European populations.   

An understanding of Russia’s broad ambitions is not hard to assess. Russia is hardly an inscrutable actor playing its cards close to the chest. It is a loud and boisterous bully whose activities are largely constrained to its home turf, and whose approach to its neighbors generates derision and scorn as often as it does awe. As described by Eugene Rumer of the Carnegie Endowment, Russia is a “security manager in a zone of privileged interest”.

Russia still represents a strategic challenge. Through their operations in The Ukraine and Syria, the Russians will inevitably gain capacity in asymmetric warfare, and air-ground operations. They already possess sophisticated cyber-warfare capabilities. Conversely, absent a concerted Russian effort to enhance long-range sustainment of ground forces, and a dramatic improvement in Russia’s population growth and economy, Russia will remain an interesting but marginally relevant challenge to American interests.   

Russia has no interest in investing itself in a large war, when proxy wars will do. It can challenge American interests only at great cost to itself and only under exceptional circumstances. Viewed in context of its capabilities, constraints and interests, Russia does not constitute a significant enough threat to justify the reapportionment of America’s increasingly limited military force structure.

End Note

[i] The combined GDP of the Baltic 3 is $135 Billion and includes a population of 6.3 million. The combined 3 armed forces (less reserves, which all 3 rely upon) is approximately 30k full time service members. Estonia does possess a highly advanced cyber warfare center which provides an exceptional niche capability to the Alliance.


About the Author(s)

Robert Murphy graduated from The Citadel with degrees in History and French. He graduated from the US Army’s Advanced Military Studies program, commanded an infantry company in combat, and served as the special assistant to the Commanding General, US Army Europe. He is a professional strategist.


Added to just a bit from my earlier offering:

The manner in which Russia "matters" -- to the U.S./the West in the New/Reverse Cold War of today -- this is much the same way that the U.S./the West "mattered" -- to the Soviets/the communists in the Old Cold War of yesterday.


In both cases noted above, the manner in which one's opponent "matters" is re: this opponent's determination and capability to stand in the way of, prevent, thwart, contain and/or roll back your effort to "expand;" often into the opponent's very own backyard/its own sphere of influence. (In the Old Cold War of yesterday, and re: Soviet/communist expansionist attempts back then, think Eastern Europe and Latin America; in the New/Reverse Cold War of today, and re: U.S./Western contemporary expansionist attempts now, think the Russian borderlands and Syria.)

It is in this "expansionist entity versus containment entity" light that one might come to easily understand why, in the New/Reverse Cold War of today, one "might not have been able to find such places as Abkhazia, South Ossetia, the Donets Basin, Transnistria on a map." That is, until such time as:

a. The U.S./the West targeted this region of the world for "transformation" more along modern western political, economic and social lines. And until such time as:

b. Russia determined that it would stand directly in the way of our such expansionist attempt.

Likewise, in the Old Cold War of yesterday, one might not have been able to find various -- otherwise unknown and unimportant -- locales on a map; this, until such time as:

a. The Soviets/the communists targeted these regions for "transformation" -- in their case -- more along communist political, economic and social lines. And, until such time as:

b. The U.S./the West determined that they would stand directly in the way of these such expansionist efforts by the Soviets/the communists back then.

To conclude:

In the Old Cold War of yesterday, the U.S./the West -- and indeed the conservative elements of various other populations -- "mattered" to the Soviets/the communists; this, because these such entities showed that they had both the capabilities, and indeed the determination needed, to stand directly in the way of the Soviets/the communists' expansionist designs for the rest of the world back then.

Likewise, in the New/Reverse Cold War of today, Russia, China and Iran -- and the conservative elements of various other populations -- these entities "matter" to the U.S./the West today; this, because these such entities have shown that they, likewise, have both the capabilities, and indeed the determination needed, to stand directly in the way of our expansionist designs for the rest of the world today.

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 06/08/2016 - 10:31am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

<blockquote>In February 1983, global media magnate Rupert Murdoch volunteered to help the Reagan administration’s propaganda strategy for deploying U.S. mid-range nuclear missiles in Europe by using his newspapers to exacerbate public fears about the Soviet Union, according to a recently declassified “secret” letter.</blockquote>

<blockquote>John Jenks's study is published in the Edinburgh University Press's International Communications Series. It sits well alongside other studies in the series like Philip Taylor's British Propaganda in the Twentieth Century (1999) and Martin Doherty's Nazi Wireless Propaganda: Lord Haw-Haw and British Public Opinion in the Second World War (2000). The series deals with the processes and impact of information flows between nation-states and within the wider context of globalization. Jenks's book develops this theme in relation to the British government's handling of domestic and international propaganda in the late 1940s and the 1950s. It is a detailed, convincing, and scholarly work.</blockquote>…

Space between Peace and War, Hybrid War, Gray Zone, etc. All classic propaganda techniques to convince domestic audiences of the need for certain policies and budgets.

If you don't like this example, think back to AfPak and the propaganda by various NATO constituencies, the Saudis, etc. on behalf of various causes. Why wouldn't NATO do the same thing in Europe that it did to you in Afghanistan?

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 06/08/2016 - 10:26am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

What is this about Germany proposing Poland defense plans, behind closed doors?

American (and Western) progressives often discount this sort of thing because of their need to focus on the US to the exclusion of all other structural factors pushing global power politics forward.

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 06/08/2016 - 10:23am

The German arms lobby represents what inside the domestic politics of Germany? I don't know the politics.

<blockquote><Strong>By October 2009</strong>, a cable reported that “leaders in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are pressing hard for NATO Article 5 contingency planning for the Baltic states,” referring to the mutual defense provision of the NATO treaty. The cable noted that President Obama had expressed support for such planning.

Now, Germany proposed expanding the Poland defense plan to the Baltic states, and NATO planners began their work. The Latvians expressed “profound happiness” at the decision, and an Estonian official called it an “early Christmas present,” according to two cables. But American officials urged Baltic officials to keep such talk secret.</blockquote>…

You don't need any archives for this, I think there are plenty of groups that follow the lobbying of European arms makers and provide information, albeit of an activist sort so you have to be careful. It's intriguing information, though.

Brilliant propaganda tactic to focus on Putin, though, it keeps the focus away from these maneuvers and plays on the deepest needs and insecurities of certain types of personalities in the military and think tank world. A strange and needy personality without intellectual discipline.

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 04/21/2016 - 11:05am

The author is out of luck. The RAND study is being widely quoted--without mention that the conditions of the war game ignored the use of nuclear weapons--and its use to drum up funds meshes perfectly with articles on Russian planes buzzing American planes right at the time there are budget hearings for something or another military.

There is too much money to be made--and too many people that long for the old Cold War--that this sort of information managing works.

Shame, really. A trillion dollars to upgrade nuclear weapons based on Putin as bogeyman is insane but who is reporting on this? Editors of journals--even online journals like War on the Rocks--don't edit articles in ways that these things are clear:…

Editors should make these things clear. Did the Survival article editors make that correction?

<blockquote>Given Russia’s aggression in the Ukraine, this is sobering testimony. But is it accurate? Unfortunately, yes: Nearly two years of extensive wargaming and analysis shows that if Russia were to conduct a short-warning attack against the Baltic States, Moscow’s forces could roll to the outskirts of the Estonian capital of Tallinn and the Latvian capital of Riga in 36 to 60 hours. In such a scenario, the United States and its allies would not only be outranged and outgunned, but also outnumbered.</blockquote>

General Breedlove was never in combat? His main experience was in the budget spending in Europe as Cold War?


Outlaw 09

Tue, 03/22/2016 - 10:57am

Ever notice after close review the similarities between the Putin attack on US neo liberalism using his non linear warfare and comments being made by Trump???

“Trump is proposing nothing less than the liquidation of the liberal world order”…

The similarity is actually quite close.....

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 03/22/2016 - 9:49am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Please ban me from commenting for my own good. I am quite serious. I will only discuss the corruption and this won't help, it seems to bring the whole conversation down.

No wonder people read Duffel blog. No one there is fooled on one thing. Not about one thing.

Why do people buy the propaganda? So strange.

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 03/22/2016 - 9:33am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

From Adam Elkus (Twitter):

"(4) At some point theory becomes a way to distort reality and the reality of hard choices, rather than a tool to illuminate it."

On Hybrid Warfare. In a series of tweets he seems to be saying that the terminology is a way to avoid doing things, to obscure, but I disagree. The gray zone and hybrid warfare terminology is meant to do the opposite, to inflate threats and make sure the US takes maximal positions within NATO because of various agendas: increased military funding and other funding, increased US involvement, trapping the US into certain positions, etc.

The US has many ways to fulfill promises, that's the point. The maximal position is not the only one and the US alone doesn't have the responsibility. It's the exact opposite of his contention. The British use a buzzword to convince the US to do less in regard to Russia? On what planet does that seem reality? Their Chatham House crew is always sort of afraid of the US losing interest and stepping back in NATO. Then it's the EU and France and Germany for them.


Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 03/22/2016 - 9:27am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

What is the purpose of NATO for the US today? I mean, what is its supposed shelf-life and end state? It was never meant to be a permanent alliance but first for post War Europe to get on its feet and then the end state was the fall of the Soviet Union within containment.

Are we now permanent guaranteers of European security even if their combined GDP is greater than ours? And Brexit too. You find British papers writing that "don't worry about Brexit, NATO will protect us." And all on their two percent?

How strange that ordinary Americans accept this all so readily, especially when there are other ways to think about deterrence than forever forward stationed troops. Why can't we be part of NATO as an offshore balancer kind of thing with Europeans in the lead? But then we would't get preference for arms sales or deference to our political wishes.

This won't end well, will it?

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 03/22/2016 - 9:21am

From War On The Rocks:



Hybrid warfare or gray zone are nice marketing tools to ensure heavy funding or a heavy Army Presence in in Eastern Europe so it's nice to see a more straightforward analysis:

<blockquote>In the course of a broader research project for which I compiled data on every land grab since 1918, 105 land grabs in total, I found three instances before Crimea of deniable forces seizing territory. In 1999, Pakistani forces crossed the Line of Control in the Kargil region of Kashmir, occupying positions overlooking strategically important roads in Indian territory. Like the Russians, Pakistan used deniable forces that they described as Kashmiri insurgents. Unlike the Ukrainians, the Indians counterattacked, absorbing heavy casualties to expel the Pakistanis.</blockquote>


<blockquote>Ukraine, Georgia, Estonia, and other Russian neighbors will never be strong enough to defeat the Russian military on their own, but that is the wrong barometer. These countries need only be able to defeat a force small enough that Russia can deny responsibility for it. Taking that option off the table leaves Russia only the options of open war and acquiescing to the status quo. This amounts to the classic deterrence problem, with the added threat of hybrid warfare nullified.</blockquote>…

So, in an ideal situation we would train more heavily with allied military, especially Stateside? But the funding we have is almost completely geared toward other options do to complex domestic factors in the US and other NATO countries?

The amount of money spent by front line states is still a relatively small part of their budgets. I suppose that's the point for some in the States and in Eastern European NATO countries. To push burden sharing in different directions.

Outlaw 09

Tue, 03/15/2016 - 1:33pm

Really worth inhaling the comments towards the end by the Russian FM.....

Brian Whitmore

The Road From Damascus To Yalta

March 15, 2016

Vladimir Putin has learned that being a global troublemaker pays dividends.

He’s discovered that being a big part of the problem assures that you are treated as a big part of the solution.

He understands that the politics of blackmail and geopolitical extortion can work wonders.

Before Putin intervened in Syria’s civil war nearly six months ago, Russia was internationally isolated, bogged down in a quagmire in Ukraine, and reeling from Western sanctions.

It was a regional rabble-rouser that was — justifiably — being treated like an international pariah.

And now, amid an apparent pullout after 167 days of air strikes?

Well, now it has a seat at the big table, alongside the United States, as co-sponsor of the Syrian cease-fire.

Syria wasn’t an end — it was a means to an end.

And Moscow is seeking to leverage its success there into more global clout, the lifting of sanctions, a free hand in the former Soviet space, and a revision of the post-Cold War international order.

For Putin, Damascus is just a stop on the road to Yalta.

In addition to killing 1,700 civilians, bombing hospitals, exacerbating Europe’s refugee crisis, and keeping Bashar al-Assad’s brutal regime afloat, the Kremlin clearly thinks it has established a template in Syria to get what it has always craved: status as a global power presiding over a bipolar world.

Writing in, Moscow-based foreign-affairs analyst Vladimir Frolov noted that the intervention “resurrected Russian-American cooperation from the dead” and created the illusion that only the two “superpowers” can solve major international crises.

“The strategic goal of the Syrian gambit, to revive the bipolar format of Russian-American cooperation and rivalry for influence in the Middle East and the world that existed during the Cold War, has almost been reached,”Frolov wrote.

“It is obvious that the Kremlin would like to make Syria a template not only for bilateral relations with the United States, but also to develop new rules of the game in a broader sense, and in other regions, for example with respect of Ukraine.”

In fact, Ukraine will no doubt be the first place where the Kremlin will try to test what it believes to be its new-found leverage.

In a televised interview on March 13, one day before Putin announced the Syria withdrawal, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov appealed to Washington to team up with Moscow to resolve the conflict in the Donbas — presumably on Moscow’s terms.

“We know that Kyiv is heavily influenced by the United States, which actually controls everyday life in Ukraine,” Lavrov said.

“I hope that the Americans are aware of the need to search for compromise solutions to ensure the full implementation of the Minsk agreements.”

Leaving aside the fact that Lavrov’s comment is delusional in that it pretends that Russia is a mediator in Ukraine and not the aggressor, it appears to telegraph where the Kremlin is going next.

Russia will try to leverage the momentum from its Syrian gambit to get a final settlement in Ukraine that preserves Moscow’s influence in the Donbas and gives it a virtual veto over Kyiv’s political direction.

It will try to force the West to forget about Crimea and get on with business as usual.

That, of course, is how things work in the Kremlin’s preferred world order. Might makes right; rules don’t matter; great powers rule their spheres of influence and decide the fates of smaller nations.

Fyodor Lukyanov, editor in chief of the journal Russia In Global Affairs and chairman of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, all but declared the post-Cold War order dead in a gloating March 8 commentary in the official government newspaper, Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

“Twenty-five years of trying to build a new world order have vanished into thin air,” Lukyanov wrote.

“Once again, just like in the previous era, the real bosses remain Moscow and Washington, with no one else having the power or capacity to make important decisions and to start to implement them.”

This is, no doubt, premature. But the Kremlin is moving closer to making it a reality.

Bill C.

Tue, 03/15/2016 - 1:54pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Given the clear lack of support for significant military intervention in Syria and elsewhere; coming, as this lack of support clearly does, from both:

a. The American people and their congressional representatives. And, likewise, from:

b. The national leaders, the populations and the government representatives of our significant allies (specifically, those of Great Britain and Germany),

Then should we acknowledge that our president does not stand alone re: his decision to pull back from the Middle East and to not push back against Russia in such places as Ukraine and Syria?

Herein to suggest that NONE of the entities that I describe above (Western leaders, Western government representatives and, indeed, Western populations) appear to share your concern with, and/or your suggestion that, these such conflicts, in these such locales, are now -- or will later -- represent "the narrative, the political landscape and the physical battlefields of the 21st century’s greatest armed conflicts?"

Q: So: What is it, exactly, that "Vladimir Putin has Learned from the Arab Spring?"

A: That lacking such things as "universal values," the entire Western world, it appears, does not see the intelligence of -- and thus has no great interest in or desire to -- engage in significant military interventions which do not meet the criteria, shall we say, of the Powell Doctrine:

1. A vital national security interest is threatened.

2. We have a clear and attainable objective.

3. The risks and costs have been fully and frankly analyzed.

4. All other non-violent policy means have been fully exhausted.

5. There is a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement.

6. The consequences of our actions have been fully considered.

7. The action is supported by the American people. (And, last but certainly not least,)

8. We have genuine, and broad, international support for our contemplated actions.

This being the case (that the entire Western world, it would seem, is not interested in less important cases and causes -- those that do not meet the criteria of the Powell Doctrine),

Then this would seem to give Putin, and various others it would seem, a certain degree of freedom; this, to "roam about" and get themselves entwined with/entangled in the intractable problems which emanate from these such regions. (This, in certain circles, not being considered such a bad thing?)

Thus to suggest then (and here attempting to come full circle) that the Russian "matryoshka" is not so empty; in this case, because of the entire Western world appears to have little interest in what they consider to be "less important" foreign policy matters (such as those associated with Ukraine, Syria, etc.)?

Outlaw 09

Tue, 03/15/2016 - 10:08am

A really worth reading article from a Ukrainian political viewer that applies deeply to the Arab Spring and Putin.....AND Obama

James Miller

What Vladimir Putin Learned From The Arab Spring

March 14, 2016

Taken from the article.......
In the April 2016 cover story of The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg has interviewed the soon-to-be-former President of the United States about “The Obama Doctrine,” Barack Obama reflects on (and defends) his controversial foreign policy. We will be addressing several of the claims made by President Obama in future articles, but the overall tone of his interviews suggest that he believes that he was right to pull back from the Middle East and to not push back against Russia more in places like Ukraine and Syria.

One has to question whether the 44th President of the United States was too quick to allow Russia to control not only the narrative but the political landscape and the physical battlefields of the 21st century’s greatest armed conflicts.

If one's "interests" can be defined:

a. As transforming other states and societies more along one's own political, economic and social lines,

b. As incorporating these transformed states and societies more into one's own political, economic, social and military arrangements and alliances and

c. As keeping these such transformed, incorporated and aligned states and societies within one's domain,

(Both the Soviets/the communists in the Old Cold War of yesterday, and the U.S./the West in the New/Reverse Cold War of today, defining their interests in these exact terms?)

Then should actions -- taken by one's opponents -- to reverse, undo and/or upset these such arrangements and/or attempts; should these not be seen as "threatening one's interests?"

If this, indeed, is the case, then should we not say, accordingly, that the actions being undertaken by our state and non-state actors opponents today (to include Russia) -- to reverse/undo/upset our expansionist designs and/or accomplishments -- these, indeed, threaten our interests?

With this explanation before us, might we not, now, respectfully disagree with our author's contention here -- that Russia's alleged threat to American interests:

a. Is exaggerated,

b. Is taken well out of context (by those that would benefit from sustained American defense spending) and

c. Is only applicable as it relates to NATO expansion in the Baltic States?

(Herein to ask: Are we not "interested" in transforming and incorporating Ukraine, Syria, etc., etc., etc., also; this, as I have described above? And, re: these "interests," are not Russia, et. al., now standing directly in our way?)

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 03/14/2016 - 12:18pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

The Germans lobby on behalf of the Baltics, behind the scenes it seems, and have been doing that since the early 90s. I mean, the pro NATO factions....

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 03/14/2016 - 12:17pm

Oh Outlaw,

There are games being played at a level we ordinary schmucks can only dream about (well, it's my personal nightmare because I don't aspire to that class):

<blockquote>André Flahaut, a former Belgian defence minister has claimed Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, is using fears the country could break up to push for the Western Alliance to be shifted to a new base.
Nato is planning to build a new state-of-the art headquarters over the next three years on land that has been donated by Belgium. But the full construction costs of £1.2 billion must be met by Nato, which has been hit by budget deficits in recent years because military operations in Afghanistan</blockquote>…

Outlaw 09

Mon, 03/14/2016 - 2:05pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

UN Security Council wraps w/no response to Iran missile tests, Russia sees no violation, opposes new sanctions

EXACTLY what a number of Obama critics of the Iran Deal stated would happen if Iran violated UN actions, no sanctions and Russia supporting Iran in the UNSC......

As I reported months ago, Russia now confirms nuke deal permits Iran to build ballistic missiles, despite US claims

Outlaw 09

Mon, 03/14/2016 - 9:16am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

This Obama attitude was so apparent in the WaPO article carried by SWJ that insisted his Syrian IS strategy was working fine it was the allies and the US general public that did not get it as we seem to be apparently totally stupid and all we needed from the entire WH/DoD/DoS was "more messaging"...THEN we would fully understand that Obama's grand Syrian IS strategy was working.

Just how arrogant can a US President be??....and remember when he rejected other "hair brained ideas on how to handle IS" or remember when he stated in a major press conference he had no IS strategy or remember when he stated again in a press conference...he would judge Putin by his actions not his words.

Well we need to fully understand exactly what he is saying in his this article and in his Obama doctrine interview......

Outlaw 09

Mon, 03/14/2016 - 9:11am

What more can I say...other than Obama seems to let his own personal biases get in the way of FP and strategy.....and personal biases are not to be ever found when conducting foreign affairs......I have been repeating over and over this is the weakness US President in the last 70 odd years and he has literally one of the equally weakest NSCs advising him.......

Barack Obama’s Revolution in Foreign Policy

When you think you’re the smartest person in the room, it’s tempting to make up your own grand strategy.

Niall Ferguson
| Mar 13, 2016


It is a criticism I have heard from more than one person who has worked with President Obama: that he regards himself as the smartest person in the room—any room. Jeffrey Goldberg’s fascinating article reveals that this is a considerable understatement. The president seems to think he is the smartest person in the world, perhaps ever.

Power corrupts in subtle ways. It appears to have made Obama arrogant. As described in Goldberg’s story, he is impatient to the point of rudeness with members of his own administration. His response to Secretary of State John Kerry when he hands him a paper on Syria is: “Oh, another proposal?” “Samantha, enough,” he snaps at the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. “I’ve already read your book.” We learn, too, that he “secretly disdains … the Washington foreign-policy establishment.”

The president is also bluntly critical of traditional American allies. He is said to have told Prime Minister David Cameron that Britain “would no longer be able to claim a ‘special relationship’ with the United States” if it did not “pay [its] fair share” by increasing defense spending. The Pakistanis and the Saudis get especially short shrift here, as—predictably—does Israel.

“Bibi, you have to understand something,” he tells the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. “I’m the African American son of a single mother, and I live here, in this house. I live in the White House. I managed to get elected president of the United States. You think I don’t understand what you’re talking about, but I do.” Netanyahu may have wondered what exactly in Obama’s biography gives him such insight into the present-day predicament of Israel.

The president is also dismissive of a number of past presidents as strategists. “We dropped more ordnance on Cambodia and Laos than on Europe in World War II,” he tells Goldberg, “and yet, ultimately, Nixon withdrew, Kissinger went to Paris, and all we left behind was chaos, slaughter, and authoritarian governments that finally, over time, have emerged from that hell.” So much for Nixon and Kissinger.

He is equally dismissive of “mythologies” about Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy. The release of the American hostages in Iran had “nothing to do with … Reagan’s posture, his rhetoric, etc.” Invading Grenada did not help “our ability to shape world events.” The Iran-Contra affair “wasn’t successful at all.” Nor was Reagan’s withdrawal of U.S. forces from Lebanon in 1983. These views are not necessarily wrong. Instead, it is the president’s tone that jars—the sarcasm that Goldberg notes. The same tone is manifest in Obama’s sole comment on his immediate predecessor. “As I recall, because apparently nobody in this town does,” he says, “Putin went into Georgia on Bush’s watch, right smack dab in the middle of us having over 100,000 troops deployed in Iraq.”

Is there anyone to whom Obama does not feel himself superior? The surprising answer is President George H.W. Bush’s national-security adviser, Brent Scowcroft. “I love that guy,” Obama is quoted as saying. This will come as no surprise to readers of his 2006 book, The Audacity of Hope, but most people will scratch their heads. The president explains: “I am … an idealist insofar as I believe that we should be promoting values, like democracy and human rights” not only out of self-interest, but also because “it makes the world a better place.” But “you could call me a realist in believing we can’t, at any given moment, relieve all the world’s misery. … We’ve got to be hardheaded … and pick and choose our spots. … There are going to be times where our security interests conflict with our concerns about human rights.”

Power corrupts in subtle ways. It appears to have made Obama arrogant.

Which brings us to Syria, the central foreign-policy failure of the Obama presidency. The grim details of what has happened as the Syrian Civil War has escalated are all too familiar: a death toll of 470,000 according to the Syrian Center for Policy Research, nearly 4.8 million refugees according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and a flood of displaced persons and migrants arriving in Europe by sea at a rate of roughly 100,000 a month. Aside from the human suffering, the escalation of the conflict has had grave strategic consequences, not least of which has been the return of Russia to the region as a major player for the first time since the early 1970s.

The consequences of American non-intervention in Syria have, in some ways, been as bad as the consequences of American intervention in Iraq, though fewer American lives and dollars have been expended. Yet the realist in Obama has no regrets. Goldberg does future historians a valuable service by setting out in detail the president’s reasoning.

The president dragged his feet on Syria for three reasons. First, having been elected partly on the strength of his opposition to the Iraq War, he was and remains in principle reluctant to deploy U.S. troops (though not U.S. drones). In 2009, he felt the Pentagon had “jammed” him into approving a troop surge in Afghanistan; four years later, he felt he was being jammed again. Second, he misread the Arab Spring, initially equating protesters in Tunisia and Tahrir Square with Rosa Parks and the “patriots of Boston.”

Third, Obama regretted succumbing to pressure from his own advisers as well as from European allies to intervene in Libya in 2011. When similar pressures were brought to bear on him over the red line he himself had drawn regarding the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Obama revolted. On August 30, 2013—after consulting only Denis McDonough, his chief of staff—he decided to call off planned air strikes against the Syrian government, telling McDonough of his “long-standing resentment: He was tired of watching Washington unthinkingly drift toward war in Muslim countries.”

CONTINUED....a long read.....

Outlaw 09

Mon, 03/14/2016 - 1:24am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified) behooves us to really go back to the Ukrainian thread 2014 and reread the Russian nuclear doctrine first clearly stated in 2013 and redone in 2014....

WHAT RAND and the entire Obama WH have simply overlooked that since 2012 Russia has held three major snap exercises involving the use of tactical nuclear weapons via the SS21 TBMs...aimed at Sweden, Baltics and Poland.

BTW...never questioned by the US has been the massive actual field testing of the complete Russian nuclear palette of their systems in 2014 and coupled with the stationing of nuclear cruise missiles equipped subs and naval ships parked full time now in the eastern Med.

Secondly, the new Russian doctrine foresees the first use of TNBMs as a "deescalation" against a major European city.......

That means one thing..the first use of a nuclear weapon is planned and exercised in their maneuvers every time since 2012.

Coupled with the parking of a nuclear "boomer sub" next to the French coastline this month, and the constant flying of their Bears with practice nuclear cruise missiles and once with actual nuclear cruise missiles onboard near Sweden and the UK.

If then coupled with their non linear warfare doctrine...we see the potential capabilities of what Russia is thinking and doing.

WHAT is massively missing is the US under Obama total lack of truly calling out the ongoing INF treaty violations by Russia confirmed even YES by social media..Obama has failed to fully inform congress as he is by law required to do and he has fully failed to inform the UNSC of the violations...question is WHY?

WHAT is even more interesting is that Russia constantly complains about the US MD systems based in Europe AS the MAIN reason for their spreading a nuclear net around Europe....WHEN they fully know the MDS is was not designed to nor ever could it intercept their nuclear ICBMs...

It is just the excuse by them for the new stationing.....the MDS is clearly now needed after the Iranians have fired four intermediate BMs in the last two months capable of hitting Europe and Israel....AND the Russians know this.

NOTICE just how reluctant Obama is in calling out the UNSC violations of these missile firings...WHY because the Iranians threatened to leave the Iran Deal..Obama's main FP success in his eyes...

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 03/13/2016 - 2:06pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

This study and others like it read almost as if the conclusions were come to first.

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 03/13/2016 - 2:03pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

From WWII onward, this has been the thinking of the institutional Army. Why do you do this to yourselves? The Surge, AfPak, Galula and COIN and the rest of it. Why? Why do you do this to yourselves?

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 03/13/2016 - 1:58pm

I still find SWJ useful because it gives me an insight into Army institutional (and factional) thinking because most of the intellectual products here are intended to direct funding in some way as opposed to the purely academic focus of understanding the larger world. In that way, it gives me insight into the thinking of the American Army at various levels.

This is from the RAND paper which generated much discussion:

From the "Notes" sections:

"We did not portray nuclear use in any of our games...."

and more importantly:

<strong>"NATO could take steps to see to limit escalatory pressures--by assuring Russia that any strikes on Russian soil would be geographically limited and constrained to a small set of very specific targets and by guaranteeing that no ground maneuver forces would enter Russian territory. It would, of course, be up to Moscow to decide how much credence to grant such guarantees."</strong>

This is such dangerous thinking, I don't know where to begin.

Any strikes on Russian soil would be escalatory by nature and NATO would be responsible.

Moscow has seen such guarantees in Libya when the US went beyond its mandate. It is not Putin propaganda to point this out.

If either the Indians or Pakistanis were to suggest such a thing, we could be incredibly alarmed at such behavior and rush to restrain them because of the potential dangers.

This is irresponsible and I cannot understand wargaming participants who would conclude such a thing unless they are insistent in living in a reality which does not exist.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 03/12/2016 - 1:30pm

Is Obama in fact placing personnel into key positions this one is for four years that effectively places the next President in a bind if he or she wants to do something other than the Obama Doctrine towards Russia......WHAT is important to remember is that Obama and this pick has largely kept both Europe and Congress totally in the dark on known and verified INF Treaty violations by Russia....AND the question is WHY????

THE last sentence is telling especially in light of the Obama interview...…

Hawks See Obama's NATO Pick as Soft on Russia

Mar 11, 2016 9:56 AM EST
By Josh Rogin

At a crucial moment in the U.S. relationship with Europe, President Barack Obama has chosen a No. 2 for NATO whom some Republican lawmakers see as the face of a wrongheaded approach to Russia.

On Tuesday, the Obama administration informed NATO allies that it will recommend the undersecretary of state for arms control, Rose Gottemoeller, to be NATO's next deputy secretary general, the military alliance’s second in command. It is typically a four-year term.

“Our nomination of Rose, a veteran diplomat with extensive experience in European Security Affairs, is a symbol of America’s strong commitment to NATO during a period of heightened challenges,” Douglas Lute, the U.S. permanent representative to NATO, wrote Tuesday in a letter to the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s political arm.

Gottemoeller has been an integral part of the Obama administration’s “reset” policy with Russia, an approach that made modest gains at first but has been all but abandoned in light of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and beyond. Republican critics of that policy have become critics of Gottemoeller as well. Two years ago, many Republican senators, including John Cornyn, James Risch and Marco Rubio, opposed her confirmation for her current job. They object to the terms of the New START Treaty, for which she was the lead negotiator.

There is a new round of criticism with this new nomination. Republican hawks in Congress have faulted her as not rigorous in negotiating and enforcing treaties with Russia. They have alleged that as she pursued new arms-control treaties with Moscow, she was not up front about Russian violations of existing accords. Her critics point to two congressional appearances in particular.

The first was in 2012, when, according to two U.S. officials who saw a classified transcript, Gottemoeller told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Russia had been developing a ground-based cruise missile whose ranges violated an existing accord, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty. The administration didn’t brief NATO allies on it until January 2014 and didn’t publicly disclose the violation until July 2014. State Department spokesman John Kirby told me that the U.S. government did not have any information about the Russian violations of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty while the New START Treaty was being negotiated. It was signed in 2010.

The second appearance was last December, when Gottemoeller publicly testified to the House Armed Services Committee about a different Russian military system, a long-range sea-based nuclear torpedo system called the Status-6. When asked whether she knew about Russian development of the Status-6 while she was negotiating the New START Treaty, Gottemoeller said “unequivocally no.”

Representative Michael R. Turner, a Republican member of the committee who serves as president of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, wrote in a letter on Monday that she answered differently when asked behind closed doors. Gottemoeller subsequently told Turner that she had “misunderstood the nature” of his question and that the intelligence community would clarify what the U.S. knew and when. Representative Mike Rodgers, chairman of the strategic forces subcommittee, has agreed to convene another hearing to clarify the issue.

The lawmakers troubled by these two appearances see them as evidence that the Obama administration is trying too hard to preserve its existing arms treaties with Russia, and ignoring increasing evidence of Russian cheating and bad behavior. Advocates of continued engagement with Russia, like Gottemoeller, are at odds not only with Russia hawks like Turner but also with other top administration officials like the supreme allied commander in Europe, Gen. Philip Breedlove, and Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, who both call for more pressure on Putin.

Last month, Breedlove said that Russia poses a “long-term existential threat” to the U.S. and its allies. Nuland has been advocating for more sanctions against Russia and for the U.S. to provide defensive weapons to the Ukrainian army to fight Russian intervention there.

Alexander Vershbow, the former Defense Department official and ambassador to Russia whom Gottemoeller would replace at NATO, is known for a tough stance toward Russia. That shift would play into the fears of U.S. allies. Europe already is questioning the U.S. commitment to confronting Russia on major issues.

NATO Secretary General Jan Stoltenberg told the Munich Security Conference last month that Russia was recklessly increasing its exercises that include tactical nuclear weapons and “blurring the line between conventional conflict and nuclear conflict.”

Gottemoeller has been trying to start discussions with Russia about eliminating tactical nuclear weapons altogether. Her vision of a cooperative and peaceful relationship between Russia and the West may be a good fit for her current job building consensus for arms-control treaties. But her appointment to be NATO’s No. 2 official risks sending the signal to Europe that the U.S. hasn’t reconciled that vision for the future with the reality of what Russia is today.


Sun, 03/13/2016 - 7:39am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Please see paragraph six for de-escalation, first observed in 2002 during their annual national level war game.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 03/12/2016 - 7:59am

One area the author totally failed to research and maybe with good reason is the new Russian nuclear doctrine usage as defined in 2013 and then upgraded again in 2014 to include the first tactical use of a TBM in order to "deescalate".

Russia's ships w/ Kalibr cruise missiles will now be perpetually present in Mediterranean[tt_news]=45169&…

Then the French discovery announced this week of a Russian "boomer" parked just next to the edge of French territorial waters in the Bay of Biscayne.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 03/12/2016 - 7:09am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

This confirms the Obama and Kerry statements that indicated Assad would be in power for at least another 18 months....LONG....LONG past Obama leaving office.........

After FOUR long years of Obama stating Assad was the problem and had to Obama says nothing.........

SO now if you are the anti Assad opposition WOULD you believe a single word Kerry and Obama say in public OR do you fully side with the Saudi's who have publicly stated Assad will go one way or another and after the large scale Northern Thunder Arab Army militay exercise we all know what the "other" means....

AFP news agency
✔ ‎@AFP BREAKING Assad ouster "red line" for regime: Syria FM

Outlaw 09

Sat, 03/12/2016 - 6:52am

In reply to by Outlaw 09…

The Middle East Is Unraveling—and Obama Offers Words

An accounting of the president’s actions and inactions

Hisham Melhem
Mar 11, 2016

Jeffrey Goldberg has conducted the most extensive autopsy of President Obama’s foreign policy—and revealed that it is based on the doctrine that the best leader is the one who leads the least, and contemplates and talks the most.

Obama is an impressive wordsmith. The most important milestones in his political career, before and after he became president, have been well-crafted speeches. He has lived by words—eloquent, searing, soaring, contemplative words—to the point where he might equate words and concepts with what the ancient Greeks called praxis, or practical action. In Obama’s world, sharp words can be almost as effective as sharp swords.

Goldberg’s article delves into some of these pivotal speeches: the Cairo speech, the speeches on the Arab uprisings, addresses on combatting terrorism and the agony of Syria. Most of the pledges contained in these speeches ring hollow now; instead of ushering in a “new beginning” with the Muslim world, Obama’s relations with Pakistan, Turkey, and the Arab states are strained and characterized by mutual contempt. Obama told those Arabs struggling non-violently for basic rights such as free speech, gender equality, the freedom of peaceful assembly, and the right to choose their leaders that “our support for these principles is not a secondary interest.” But as I have written, when Obama “looked at the enormity of the challenges posed by the Arab uprisings, particularly when they became more violent, he simply flinched.” Obama did inherit a dysfunctional Arab state system and fraying civil societies, yet his own ill-conceived actions and inactions have contributed significantly to the great unraveling of the Middle East.

In these speeches, as in Goldberg’s article, Obama comes across as a scholar who oscillates between providing compelling analysis of the problems and trends he is confronting or anticipating, and a tireless sophist and procrastinator weaving elaborate excuses and justifications for dithering and hand-wringing. His explanation of his passivity regarding Russia’s rampaging in Ukraine and Syria is rooted in denial. Obama has convinced himself that President Vladimir Putin’s military intervention in Syria came “at enormous cost to the well-being of his own country.” He believes the Russians “are overextended. They’re bleeding.” Yes, Russia’s economy is contracting, and Putin is in charge of an autocratic oligarchy. And yet Russia has filled the vacuum Obama helped create in Syria when he failed to act on his promises and deliver on his threats. The Russia-Iran-Assad regime axis is the one determining the tempo of military operations and diplomatic maneuvering in the Syrian theater, not the United States and its allies. Putin has diabolically exploited the Syrian refugee challenge in Europe to weaken the institutions of the European Union and to divert Europe’s attention from his predations in Ukraine. Because of Obama’s dithering, Syria’s war has metastasized into a Middle Eastern and European crisis.

It is as if the president of the United States is declaring a whole generation of Arabs as the devil’s rejects.

What is most jarring is Obama’s tendency to distort the views of his detractors to the point of dissembling by reframing their original positions. He perfected this formula on critics of his maddening approach to Syria, including senior members of his administration, by belittling their proposals for establishing no-fly zones, or protected safe havens in Syria, as “half-baked” ideas or “mumbo-jumbo” proposals. Obama told Goldberg that his critics say, “You called for Assad to go, but you didn’t force him to go. You did not invade.” But Mr. President, who asked you to invade Syria? Could you please name one serious critic who said so? Obama speaks expansively and derisively about the “Washington playbook” and what he describes as the foreign-policy establishment’s “credibility” fetish; the playbook, according to Obama, tends to prescribe militarized responses to different crises in order to maintain America’s credibility. But credibility, particularly for a great power, is the coin of the realm. And it need not be purchased by force every time.

Obama boasts that he is “very proud” of the moment, on August 30, 2013, when he retreated from his threat to punish the Assad regime militarily following its mass murder of more than 1,400 innocent Syrian civilians, many of them children, with chemical weapons. He may view that date as his day of liberation from promises he made to help people who have been at the receiving end of weapons of mass destruction. But for millions of Syrians, August 30, 2013 is a day that shall live in infamy.

Obama is right to be resentful of America’s Sunni Arab allies, who foment sectarianism and anti-Americanism and help radical jihadists who are wreaking havoc in Syria and Libya. His frustration with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Egypt is well-known. Obama’s retrenchment from the Middle East reflects deep disillusionment with the region.

But it also reflects disdain for an Arab world that should be avoided. Obama ignores those states seeking tepidly to implement reforms and fight terrorism. He coldly and correctly diagnoses the ills of the majority of Arab states: predatory autocratic regimes, violent Islamist groups, diminishing civic traditions, rampant sectarianism and tribalism. But he does not see any ray of hope or promise in this bleak scene. It is as if the Arab world is inhabited only by angry Arab youths “thinking about how to kill Americans,” and totally bereft of decent Arab men and women, like those millions who marched and struggled against tyranny and called for freedom, empowerment, dignity, and modernity. He laments that if the U.S is not talking to the young people of Asia, Africa, and Latin America “because the only thing we’re doing is figuring out how to destroy or cordon off or control the malicious, nihilistic, violent parts of humanity, then we’re missing the boat.” It is as if the president of the United States is declaring a whole generation of Arabs as the devil’s rejects; it is as if he wants to have large swaths of the Middle East quarantined indefinitely.

BTW...I have stated here that in fact Obama's Cairo speech triggered the "Arab Spring"...then he backed away from what he called out......

Outlaw 09

Sat, 03/12/2016 - 6:36am

Obama in his interview outlining what he viewed as a high successful FP for the last seven years stated the following;

...."when one is nothing but farmers, carpenters and engineers and facing to two major powers Iran and Russia WHY should I/we get involved...?"

FOLLOWED before by the smokescreen debate "there are no moderates" that we could support in Syrian against Assad, Iran AND in the fight against IS.

BUT WAIT...there is in fact a Sunni Army...three actually... fully capable if given support to attack IS inside Syria without US boots on the ground and are fully capable of actually defeating IS.

AND those farmers, carpenters and engineers are led by well educated/trained former SAA Officers and NCOs....

Rebels have liberated Yani Yiban (SW of Dudyian) in north rural Aleppo from ISIS last night.

Rebel groups that took part in liberation are:
Faylaq al-Sham
Hamza Brig
Sultan Murad Brig
Suqour al-Jabal Brig
Ahrar Souriya Brig
Div 99

ALL these groups have been declared in the CoH to be "moderate forces"...kind of shots down the Obama smokescreen there is no one to support that could in fact take on IS.......

NOTICE...there has been a distinct silence on the debate smokescreen "of what is a moderate"??????

Outlaw 09

Sat, 03/12/2016 - 5:56am

Something to think about........

If you're an American confusedly watching the darkest forces of your nation rally behind a demagogue-maybe you can understand the Mid East now.

It is not that difficult......

Outlaw 09

Sat, 03/12/2016 - 3:16am

Info warfare does not work???...regardless of who uses it.....

This is the backstory for that viral Nazi salute photo taken at the cancelled #TrumpRally, photographer: @ejwamb.

White, female and in her 50s......

If you still don't believe Russia is a major sponsor of @realDonaldTrump, have a glimpse at this Russian "US" site

BTW...Obama "smokescreens as well"....

Outlaw 09

Sat, 03/12/2016 - 3:00am

Bill has always been about civil societies and their wants and needs as defined by themselves and not by the Russians and or the US.

Something Robert keeps saying over and over.

Syria truce gave people a chance to remind us that the war began w/ a dictator & his crimes…

AFTER five long years of genocide, starvation, refugee flows, torture and disappearance the Syrian civil society when there is a moment of "quiet" gets back to what they did best in 2011, peaceful demonstrations against Assad.

While Obama constantly hides behind the "smokescreen of disinformation" that there is not a "moderate force to be seen in Syrian"....there is and they have been fighting IS for over four years.

Remember it was Obama that stated...."farmers carpenters and engineers" cannot be trusted to form an effective fighting force" which has been defying Assad, his major Iranian backed Shia mercenary army, IS and now dodging Russian bombs...FOR a long five years....

DID Obama totally forget the American Revolution which was also founded on farmers, carpenters and engineers which fought for HOW long and in the end accepted foreign assistance to defeat a major power.....and there is no similarity between the US and Syrian revolutions????

BUT WAIT Obama forgot along the way to the WH his own history....and all that Harvard education cannot replace that simple fact.

BTW...Obama claims now to be a "progressive realist"...first of all he has never been a "progressive" as progressives were and are able to think out of the box and he has really never been a "realist" as a "realist" would be able to fully recognize "genocide"....

Outlaw 09

Fri, 03/11/2016 - 1:13pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Obama has basically signaled to the Saudi's that they are on their own now and cannot trust the US...thus you will see KSA becoming far more aggressive in Obama's own words....."in a cold peace"......

✔ ‎@FRANCE24 #ArabLeague declares Lebanon's #Hezbollah 'terror' group (official)

This is just the beginning and Obama has virtually no further influence in the Arab Sunni he burnt his bridge with the KSA and the rest of the GCC.

Outlaw 09

Fri, 03/11/2016 - 1:03pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

This article sums up exactly why I have been repeatedly stating here that this Obama WH and it's NCS is the worse we have had in over 70 years..and that he is basically nothing more than an isolationist that is setting the next President up for a massive FP failure in a number of global areas.

Obama is Wilsonian to the core and his interview concerning his doctrine reflects exactly that.

Outlaw 09

Fri, 03/11/2016 - 12:36pm

In reply to by mwj02

mwj02...part of the core problem lies within out very own Obama WH and what he just released as the Obama doctrine which actually explains in unusual candor his failures which he would not necessarily see as failures....BUT it explains his lack of reaction to either Putin and or Assad and explains in detail his deliberate tilt to the Iranians who are just a radical now as they were under Khomeini....and yes even the so called "moderates" that Obama was counting on are for fighting in Syria using the IRGC, Shia mercenaries and Hezbollah.

Barack Obama Comes Clean

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on March 11, 2016

Yesterday, Jeffrey Goldberg’s latest interview with President Obama was published. There have been numerous worthwhile takes on what is a very revealing conversation, such as Max Boot and Nibras Kazimi, and it is very difficult to quarrel with the conclusion of David Frum that “the dominant theme of these interviews is that we, all of us, have grievously let down the president,” who has exactly one self-criticism: “Obama admits he does not make sufficient allowances for how unreasonable other people are.” What I think deserves most attention is that the President has finally aligned his rhetoric, especially on Iran, with his actual foreign policy.

The key passage is this:

[Obama] went on to say that the Saudis need to “share” the Middle East with their Iranian foes. “The competition between the Saudis and the Iranians—which has helped to feed proxy wars and chaos in Syria and Iraq and Yemen—requires us to say to our friends as well as to the Iranians that they need to find an effective way to share the neighborhood and institute some sort of cold peace,” he said. “An approach that said to our friends ‘You are right, Iran is the source of all problems, and we will support you in dealing with Iran’ would essentially mean that as these sectarian conflicts continue to rage and our Gulf partners, our traditional friends, do not have the ability to put out the flames on their own or decisively win on their own, and would mean that we have to start coming in and using our military power to settle scores. And that would be in the interest neither of the United States nor of the Middle East.”

Some of us have long argued that, despite what the President says in public, his actual policy as executed is the pursuit of détente with the Islamic Republic of Iran, using the nuclear agreement as a facilitator. The President came in with one overwhelming goal: to draw down U.S. resources in the region. By deputizing Iran to protect core U.S. interests, such as this malign fantasy that the U.S. and Tehran share an interest in defeating the Islamic State (IS), while creating an “equilibrium” that protects Iranian “equities,” it would allow an order to take shape that did not require the U.S. to police it. By definition this meant empowering Iran against its neighbors, notably the Gulf States, since Iran had heretofore been contained. Here Obama confirms virtually every point of that argument.

In this time of isolationism in the West, this vision is likely to appeal well beyond the Democratic Party’s base. This is a troubled vision, however.

For one thing it neglects the wisdom of Ibn Hazm, who explained a millennium ago: “If you treat your friend and enemy the same, you will arouse distaste for your friendships and contempt for your enmity and you will not be long for this world.” Obama “is clearly irritated that foreign-policy orthodoxy compels him to treat Saudi Arabia as an ally,” Goldberg writes, and given some of the things Riyadh has done, one has a measure of sympathy. (One is even more sympathetic to Obama’s view of Pakistan.) But, first, the Saudi regime of 2016 is not the Saudi regime of 1996 when it comes to foreign policy. Second, if one wants to strengthen negative trends within Saudi foreign policy, making them feel isolated is a pretty good way to go about it. The dawning realization they were alone has already had the Saudis reconcile with Qatar and support the Jaysh al-Fatah alliance in Syria, which contains groups Riyadh had previously shunned. Third, and more to the point, it is not only the Saudis that Obama has alienated; it is virtually every ally in the Middle East that feels betrayed by the United States. For a President so intent on avoiding massive, unilateral U.S. military action, it makes no sense to turn allies overboard in the search of conciliating adversaries: if something happens that compels the U.S. to act, Obama has left himself—and, at least for a time, his successors—no levers to use except the massive, unilateral one.

The vision fails because any notion of “balance” between the Iranian revolution and its neighbours is a mirage. The clerical regime does not intend to take the U.S. offer to “share” in bringing order to the region; Tehran intends to upend the entire U.S.-underwritten structure and replace it with Iranian hegemony—a project in which it is now receiving Russian help. Thus, “balance” is ceding the region to Iran under another name. On paper the Gulf States have military prowess that dwarfs Iran’s. In reality, Iran has asymmetric structures like the Quds Force, the expeditionary wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps led by Qassem Suleimani, which the Gulf States do not, capable of terrorism and subversion in a way the Gulf States cannot match. Indeed both Obama and John Kerry have lamented that the Arabs do not have a Quds Force or a Suleimani, something and someone who can get things done.

This is perhaps the largest problem of all for Obama’s vision: Iran simply cannot do what he wants it to—namely bring order to the region. Iran does not want order, of course: the IS threat is very helpful in keeping Iran’s client governments in Baghdad and Damascus pliable and in inducing concessions from the Americans, plus IS’s caliphate covers areas in western Iraq and eastern Syria dominated by Sunni tribes that Iran knows it could not rule even if it wanted to. And if Iran tried to move into the Sunni Arab zones, as it has done in parts of Iraq, through its rabidly sectarian Shi’i jihadist militias, the result is terrible destruction, demographic engineering, and the setting of the stage for long-term instability.

The lesson of Iraq and the Awakening was that to defeat IS it required empowering local Sunnis to take care of their own security. This was so successful that IS itself recommended, in its post-Surge policy post-mortem (yes they really have them) that this “clever, bold idea” be annexed. Obama’s political disengagement, long before the military pull-out, from Iraq allowed the Awakening forces to wither under the dual onslaught of an Iranian-backed government that saw armed Sunnis as a coup menace and IS who saw them as traitors to the cause. The President then failed to seriously engage with the Syrian rebellion because Syria has been given to Iran as a sphere of influence in this new order. This left Sunni populations with the horrific choice of the Islamic State or the Islamic Republic, and in the circumstances they will pick the former. Iran’s presence, and especially that of its proxy regime in Syria, is not a bulwark against IS; it is a spur to IS.

There are many other revealing snippets in the interview where the President appears to feel the time for truth is upon us—even if it does not quite align with the known facts of objective reality.

Obama has a major problem with “free riders” on the American security system, specifically Europe. This complaint is the equivalent of the “waste, fraud, and abuse” slogan in budgetary debates—a Europe that disarms itself because America guarantees its security is annoying, but it means they can’t fight each other and suck America into a global cataclysm (again). Blaming the Europeans and Libyans for the lack of follow-through after the deposition of Muammar el-Qaddafi is especially rich, though. The President ran on a platform of learning the lessons of Iraq, and one such lesson—whatever view one takes politically of the invasion—was the need for Phase IV planning. Iraq did have Phase IV planning, it was just bad. Expecting the Europeans to step up means Obama literally had no plan for post-Qaddafi Libya.

Obama announces himself “very proud” of his decision on August 30, 2013, to stand down from his threat to punish Bashar al-Assad for gassing to death 1,400 people nine days earlier. The collapse of the international taboo against the use of weapons of mass destruction and the devastation to America’s allies, notably France but also inside Syria, which allowed the strengthening of extremist forces within the insurgency, was “liberation day” for Obama, says Goldberg: he successfully defied America’s foreign-policy establishment and America’s allies.

The “deal” orchestrated by Vladimir Putin—to decommission Assad’s chemical weapons in exchange for sparing the dictator military strikes—has of course never been fulfilled: while the deal lasts Assad is legitimized as a partner in disarmament, so Assad and the Kremlin have ensured the process lasts forever. Meanwhile, Assad has switched to gassing civilians with chlorine, and paid no price.

Goldberg also teases out some revealing statements on Obama’s ideology, what one might call progressive-realism. “Obama … is an admirer of the foreign-policy realism of President George H. W. Bush and, in particular, of Bush’s national-security adviser, Brent Scowcroft (‘I love that guy,’ Obama once told me).” Stepping over Bush 41 standing aside to let Saddam Hussein massacre a rebellion he had incited, leading to a running international security crisis with progressively fewer options for its solution, which doesn’t seem especially realistic, and Scowcroft’s saying that the post-1945 Middle East, until the fall of Saddam, was “fifty years of peace” (this is a period covering inter alia the Iran-Iraq War, the Gulf War, the Lebanese Civil War, Qaddafi’s reign of terror, and the barracks bombing). Obama “jokes” about wanting “a few smart autocrats,” the exact prescription of the Scowcroft-style realists, which led to America supporting brittle dictatorships, which worked to ensure the only people available to fill the vacuum when they were suddenly overthrown were religious radicals. To this magical realism, Obama adds “internationalism,” not of a muscular, Truman-esque kind; one where the blessing of the United Nations is needed to act and which is encapsulated in the President saying that he felt no obligation was laid on him by calling on Assad to go. The statement was a justified act of “moral authority,” Obama says, but it didn’t mean he was “obliged to invade” Syria (the strawman do-nothing-or-occupation dichotomy the President has used for many years in explaining his Syria policy).

Goldberg reminds us that Obama’s advisors didn’t know he was going to lay down the red line and that Kerry and Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel weren’t in the room when Obama decided to throw the matter to Congress, and it’s extremely interesting to see that Kerry has advised—repeatedly—that Obama undertake limited strikes against Assad to pressure him in the negotiations. In other words, some of Obama’s officials understand, as apparently the President does not (or will not), that military action is part of a political settlement in Syria, not its antithesis. But even as the Syria crisis widens from a regional crisis to one threatening Europe and the Atlantic Alliance, “Obama has not recategorized the country’s civil war as a top-tier security threat,” and continues to take the view that he is letting Russia make a mistake in Syria—despite Moscow having stabilized Assad and weaponized the refugee flow it is causing against the European Union.

The President’s remarks on Russia are especially troubling. It is true, as Obama says, that Russia does not control the layout of paperwork or the order of discussion at G20 meetings. It is also unfortunately true that Russia controls Crimea and large sections of eastern Ukraine and western Syria. One wonders what the Baltics make of a U.S. President saying, in public, of Ukraine, a European State with a third of its territory under occupation by Moscow and its capital penetrated and assaulted by Moscow’s intelligence agencies, that it “is going to be vulnerable to military domination by Russia no matter what we do.” This shredding of the post-Cold War order apparently does not worry the President. It “doesn’t suddenly make [Putin] a player,” Obama says. What really does worry the President is climate change, “a potential existential threat to the entire world”.

It seems that Obama has finally decided, with less than a year left in office left, to come clean and make the case for his legacy. The President has now laid out the parameters on which he wants to be judged; it would be churlish to refuse. The academic and media criticism might be the least of it, however. There are many predatory regimes watching and calibrating when to make their move.

Are the following leaders all wrong? Or might there be something more than an internal MCO vs. IW debate going on here?

President Putin: "If I wanted, Russian troops could not only be in Kiev in two days, but in Riga, Vilnius, Tallinn, Warsaw or Bucharest, too.”…

Putin Doctrine: “In recent weeks, the Russian government has articulated what might be called the Putin Doctrine, a blanket assertion that Moscow has the right and the obligation to protect Russians anywhere in the world. Speaking on Russian television last month, Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, said that "Russia is the country on which the Russian world is based" and that Putin "is probably the main guarantor of the safety of the Russian world.".”…

Russia’s New NSS: "The 2015 NSS is a blueprint for Moscow’s re-establishment of a militaristic, authoritarian state that gains it legitimacy through the blatant promotion internally of nationalism and fear of an imminent Western military threat. Confrontation with the West is now the order of the day as Russia seeks to reassert its “great power” dominion over the former states of the Soviet Union and divert domestic attention away from a declining economy. Strong Russian words have been matched by deeds since Russia’s 2008 military operations in, and occupation of Georgian territory. This was followed by the 2014 military occupation and annexation of Crimea, and the on-going Russian military operations in Eastern Ukraine and Syria"

President Obama: "And yet, as we gather here today, we know that this vision is threatened by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. It is a brazen assault on the territorial integrity of Ukraine -- a sovereign and independent European nation. It challenges that most basic of principles of our international system -- that borders cannot be redrawn at the barrel of a gun; that nations have the right to determine their own future. It undermines an international order where the rights of peoples and nations are upheld and can’t simply be taken away by brute force."…

Secretary Carter: "Two of these challenges reflect a return to great power of competition. First is in Europe, where we're taking a strong and balanced approach to deter Russian aggression, and we haven't had to worry about this for 25 years. While I wish it were otherwise, now we do. . . Russia and China are our most stressing competitors. They have developed and are continuing to advance military system that seek to threaten our advantages in specific areas. And in some case, they are developing weapons and ways of wars that seek to achieve their objectives rapidly, before they hope, we can respond.”…

General Dunford: "Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, in line to assume the nation's highest military post later this summer, cited Russia's nuclear weapon stockpile and aggressive, unpredictable actions as reasons that country presents the most serious near-term threat to worldwide stability. "They present the greatest existential threat," he told the Senate Armed Services Committee at his confirmation hearing. "If you look at their behavior, it's nothing short of alarming.””…

General Breedlove: "Russia is blatantly attempting to change the rules and principles that have been the foundation of European security for decades. The challenge posed by a resurgent Russia is global, not regional, and enduring, not temporary. . . We cannot fully be certain what Russia will do next, and we cannot fully grasp Putin's intent. What we can and are doing is learning from his actions. And what we see suggests growing Russian capabilities, significant military modernization, and ambitious strategic intent. We also know that Putin only responds to strength and seeks opportunities in weakness. We must strengthen our deterrence in order to manage his opportunistic confidence. EUCOM and the NATO alliance are adapting through improving our readiness and improving our responsiveness, adapting to the challenge, and increasing our own collective security."…

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: "We have seen a more assertive Russia. A Russia which is destabilising the European security order. NATO does not seek confrontation. We do not want a new Cold War. At the same time our response has to be firm. So how do we square this circle? I strongly believe that the answer lies with both more defence and more dialogue. Pursued together, they can help us to achieve greater stability in Europe. Let me start with defence. Russia’s actions in Ukraine have triggered a robust response from the international community. Involving sanctions, suspension from the G-8, and increased support for our eastern partners. And NATO is undertaking the biggest strengthening of our collective defence in decades. To send a powerful signal to deter any aggression or intimidation. Not to wage war, but to prevent war. And this is why deterrence is a key part of our overall strategy. Deterrence starts with resolve. It’s not enough to feel it. You also have to show it. . . At our summit in Warsaw in July, I expect NATO Heads of State to decide to further strengthen the Alliance's defence and deterrence.”

Estonian Defense Minister: “The problem is that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin thinks he can do things very quickly . . . I would say that, in order to adjust the situation, we have to have a deterrent posture,” Misker said. “But the deterrent has to be significant enough to change [Putin’s] calculus.”…

Where does this leave us? "During the Cold War, Nato assumed that a Soviet offensive through the Fulda Gap could only be defeated by nuclear weapons. But the permanent presence of 200,000 US troops in Germany – along with 55,000 soldiers from the British Army of the Rhine – would slow down the onslaught and buy a few days, or perhaps weeks, for cooler heads to prevail before the terrible moment of decision arrived. Today, no such safety margin exists. If Russia were to invade the Baltic states, Nato would probably have one option – and one alone – to defend its members. America, Britain and France would need to decide almost immediately whether to use nuclear weapons. If they opted to abandon the Baltics, then Nato would be finished. Once a collective defence pact throws one member to the wolves, the game is up. At that moment, Nato would effectively be dissolved, leaving every European country with no choice but to ask Russia for gentle treatment. By moving against the Baltic states, Mr Putin could force us to choose between scrapping Nato or going nuclear. Does anyone believe the thought has never crossed his mind?”…

- - - - -

We should neither inflate nor deflate threats to suit predetermined priorities, but assess them objectively and realistically. Russia lacks the reach to invade Western or Central Europe, but it can seize the Baltic States in less than three days given NATO's current posture. This would leave the President with bad options: take six months to deploy forces and launch a delayed counter-offensive that would risk nuclear escalation, or badly damage the credibility of US extended deterrence by effectively ceding control of NATO allies while adopting a long-term economic strategy to impose costs.

A Baltics conflict is only plausible because the US and NATO allies have drawn down their force posture and strategic readiness to the point that invites aggression. Instead of returning to Cold War force levels (8 corps, ~72 brigades), 3 armored and 4 infantry brigades with supporting enablers could deny a rapid fait accompli. Another ~9 European armor brigades could be made ready to counter-attack to restore their lines of communication. It is not mission impossible to deter this conflict.

Let me try this angle. . . Where is there greater strategic utility for those armored brigades? Based in the US to deter Canada & Mexico? In Afghanistan to interdict Al Qaeda and Taliban? In Iraq and Syria, conducting another large-scale, long-duration counter-insurgency with ineffective partners? Or perhaps in Europe to deter Russia?

Why then is it valid and necessary to assume that Russia would never use force against the Baltic States and rest US vital interests entirely on a analysis of Putin's intentions when our track record for predicting -- or even understanding -- Russian actions has been so poor?

with respect,

Michael W. Johnson

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 03/11/2016 - 10:19am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

"high end" "defensive" who reads around this joint anyway?

It's not election year sloganeering, there is real frustration and distress. It's not going to end well unless attention is paid to fundamentals at home. You know this abroad, time to learn it here.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 03/11/2016 - 10:18am…

"high end" and then there was, "defensive" weapons during the discussions on arming Ukraine.


Okay, let's return to the Cold War then. Let's station lots of American troops in the Baltics and missile defense systems in Poland and build up our nuclear weapons systems.

And then, thanks to the number you all have done on the American people the past 15 years, we can have not just a President Trump, but someone even more erratic. Let's do that. How lucky Americans are with their military intellectual complex.

Bill C.

Fri, 03/11/2016 - 1:28pm

In reply to by Tropiccid


Immediately above you said:

"I think that an assertion that Russia or anyone else's use of hybrid warfare is somehow containing or even disrupting the pursuit of American interests is incorrect."


If Russia, China and Iran -- and, indeed, the conservative elements of various other states and societies -- if these opponent state and non-state actors' use of such Old Cold War things as political warfare, hybrid warfare and unconventional warfare, etc.; these, being employed in the service of the "containment" and "roll back" strategies that I describe above,

If these such strategies and approaches ARE NOT, as you suggest above, "somehow containing or even disrupting the pursuit of American interests" (specifically, our ability to transform outlying states and societies more along modern western political, economic and social lines),

Then how, exactly, would you explain current/recent U.S./Western moves to (re-) embrace, ourselves, political warfare, hybrid warfare, etc.; these, to counter our such opponents moves (think: their "containment"/"roll back" strategies and their use of political warfare/hybrid warfare/etc., employed in these strategies' name)???????

Note: The fact that the U.S./the West to moving to embrace these such "countering" moves -- which are (a) focused on a clear threat to U.S. expansionist interests and (b) are relatively cheap and economical for the U.S./the West to both employ and sustain -- these such facts would not seem to support that part of your thesis wherein you suggest that these such efforts are being undertaken (1) "well out of context" and are being advocated (2) only "by those that would benefit from sustained American defense spending."

Herein to suggest that, in the New Cold War of today, the threats to our interests that I describe above (specifically to our expansionist designs) seem real and that, accordingly, the described, relatively cheap and sustainable, "counter" measures that we are considering (think political warfare, counter-hybrid warfare, counter-UW, etc.) these seem reasonable;

This, given that (a) the "matryoshka" of our state and non-state actor opponents (as I explain above via their common strategy and approaches) is still quite full and that, accordingly, (b) these such state and non-state actor opponents, so obviously, "still matter."


Thu, 03/10/2016 - 5:43pm

In reply to by Bill C.

I think that an assertion that Russia or anyone else's use of hybrid warfare is somehow containing or even disrupting the pursuit of American interests is incorrect. If anything, Russia's aggression is fueling the desire of nations like the Ukraine to become more aligned with the west. Should it continue to mount incursions like the ones referred to in the article, it will drive even more people to embrace the west. It certainly wouldn't grind anything to a halt. I stand by my statement that Russia is picking the fights it knows it will likely win and shy away from anything more dangerous. Putin poses the biggest threat in his potential to miscalculate where the margins of American interests are. Ukraine is getting pretty close, but the Baltics are a certainty of a war from which Russia would not emerge the winner.

"Russia’s alleged threat to American interests is exaggerated, taken well out of context by those that would benefit from sustained American defense spending, and only applicable as it relates to NATO’s expansion in the Baltic States."

The context within which one must decided if Russia, and indeed other entities, might "threaten American interests" is, I suggest, as I describe it -- via a critical question -- below:


In the New Cold War of today:

a. Can such great nations as Russia, China and Iran, and various lesser non-western states and societies with significant conservative populations,

b. Herein using similar strategies against us today -- such as we used against the Soviets/the communists in the Old Cold War (think "containment" and "roll back"),

c. And herein using similar methods against us today (think "hybrid warfare," "unconventional warfare," etc.) -- much as we used against these against the Soviets/the communists back-in-the-day. Can such great nations and other entities, using such strategies and methods,

d. "Threaten American interests" (specifically our determination to spread and maintain "market democracy" throughout the world) today; this,

e. Much as the U.S./the West, using similar strategies and methods, successfully threatened Soviet/communists interests (to wit: their determination to spread and maintain communism throughout the world) in the Old Cold War of yesterday?

If the answer to this question is "YES (American interests, thus, can indeed be threatened), then our author above's contention, to wit: that Russia (etc.?) "can challenge American interests only at great cost to itself and only under exceptional circumstances;" this would, should we not agree, be disproved?

Especially as this relates to the "threat" to our such interests re: our desire to spread, and/or maintain, "market-democracy" (a) within these very nations themselves and/or (b) within their backyards/their spheres of interest?

Bottom Line:

Such strategies as "containment" and "roll back" -- and such methods as "unconventional warfare," hybrid warfare," etc., employed in their name -- these appear to be relatively cheap, reasonable and viable means for such nations as Russia, China and Iran, and various nations with significant conservative populations, to use to stop -- dead in its tracks -- America's grand expansionist designs (think the spread of "market-democracy" worldwide)?

Herein to suggest that accordingly, and in sharp contrast to author's assertion above, that: (a) The matryoshka may be far from empty and, thus, (b) Russia (etc., etc., etc.) may, indeed, still matter?

Outlaw 09

Thu, 03/10/2016 - 3:59pm

In reply to by Tropiccid

If one is well versed in how the Russian decision makers use their own propaganda channels to 1) keep their own public informed and 2) they actually talk to the West using the same channels.

One just has to learn how to filter the propaganda from an actual statement of intent.

In this case the Russian FM Lavrov is talking to the Europeans and not the US as the Russian intent is to split the US from Europe...

Again many in the US have forgotten this art of monitoring what Russians say and actually mean even if buried in a Russian Today broadcast...besides we do not have that many actual Russian linguists anymore working for the government....who can actually monitor the true Russian broadcast to compare the English version to the Russian statements....

Outlaw 09

Thu, 03/10/2016 - 3:56am

This confirms a point I was making yesterday...namely the author washes away any possible true Russian threat to Europe as a whole.....and the utter lack right now of both the US and or NATO in pushing back if Article 5 was ever triggered.

Electronic Warfare ‎@ArmyEW
@USArmyEurope Cmdr LTG Ben Hodges discusses the importance of electronic warfare training via @Bloomberg

Right now the US Army has only about 300 EW Officers and NCOs all designed and trained for the CIED fight...BUT not for a true EW we have seen it practiced in eastern Ukraine nor in the sheer number of new Russian EW equipment fielded and being fielded.

We had this ability also in the early 90s and then we "retired it" as there was never going to be a need for in the so called "future" well the "future" is here and where is the Army EW?....not to be seen until late 2020 if then......

Outlaw 09

Fri, 03/11/2016 - 12:20am

In reply to by Tropiccid

Then you do not fully understand the Russian doctrine of non linear warfare.

It is not a question of what Russia wants to do nor what is capable of doing...IT is a question of what it is willing to do.

Sometimes I wonder after two years of the Ukraine conflict have we truly forgotten the eight phases of Russian non linear warfare with it's two key cornerstones 1) cyber warfare and 2) information warfare?

The flexibility of the eight phases allows Russia to progress at it's own pace and the West as always is a political animal that quickly loses all interest in something and tries to get back to "business as usual" whereas Russia can when it is willing...push then say anti EU/US neo right populist parties, or then crank up the number of attacks in Ukraine, or then attempt to play nice in say attempting to settle the Syrian conflict or say crank up the massive bombing in Syria to generate more refugees, or play nice and attempt to rejoin say PACE or then attack the US aggressively with info warfare.

BUT the concept of a "new Yalta" via an economic and common political zone from Portugal to the Russian Far East is an idea they have not dropped since 2008 and it comes up with a regular tempo that is far more than some common political statement.

Just as if one really reads the Russian statements made by Putin, key members of the Russian Duma and his FM they contain three geo political goals that have not changed a single comma on;

1. damage and discredit NATO
2. damage and discredit EU
3. fully disconnect US from the ME and Europe replacing the US influence with Russian "new Yalta" sphere of influence zone

AND if you really read the Obama doctrine published and linked here yesterday Putin is more than half way there....

This summarizes exactly the Obama thinking in his so called doctrine....

Obama, 1948: “Fact is, Berlin is always going to be vulnerable to the USSR. No airlift.”…

You make an interesting comment....
I put more weight behind what they actually do

Now really rethink what they have actually done since the Ukrainian Maidan and you will notice it has been actually quite a lot.....and it is always accompanied by their "statements"....

Remember Obama said the same thing in 2014..."we will judge Putin on his actions not his words"...and what have we done in the face of his actions...not a single darn thing....that is the level we have seen with the so called Obama doctrine....nothing but talk , talk and even more talk.

And Russian actions have been what again....constantly moving forward.


Thu, 03/10/2016 - 1:24pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

I don't share Outlaw's belief in a correlation between what Russia says it wants to do and what it is actually capable of doing. Among Russia's objectives are the removal of American influences in spheres it believes are its domain (primarily the 'near abroad' on its periphery) and disrupting Western European unity. As long as our NATO partners lowball their own defense spending and rely almost exclusively on America for their security, the former wont happen. The latter is a ridiculously easy pursuit. Dividing the Europeans isn't really a challenge for Russia. Many say that Russia is in Syria to manipulate the refugee crisis and further drive wedges into Europe. I suspect that may be a secondary objective, as European unity is always a dicey concept, not something Russia would need to take extraordinary steps to aggravate. I would also recommend you take what Putin and Lavrov say with a grain of salt. I don't share your faith in the importance of their statements, which I have read, I put more weight behind what they actually do.

Outlaw 09

Thu, 03/10/2016 - 3:09am

The author would do well in going back and fully understanding the Russia desire for a "new Yalta" is simply just not about words as he seems to think.....that is exactly why the "new Russian non linear doctrine" was designed....the ability to increase a "sphere of influence" just one step below open warfare...inch for inch across Europe.

Notice the Russian FM restates the desire to have an economic union from Portugal to the Russian Far East....naturally under Russian "sphere of influence" and or what Putin has termed a "new Yalta"...where the hegemon has "inherent sovereign rights"

Attempts to unite Europe without Russia ended in tragedies – Lavrov

Published time: 3 Mar, 2016 11:19

Western attempts to exclude Russia from shaping European and global affairs have led to countless historical tragedies over the centuries, according to Moscow's foreign minister, who added lasting stability can only be reached through cooperation.

In an article for the Russia in Global Affairs magazine, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov outlines the historical importance of Russian foreign policy over the course of the last 1,000 years, arguing that Russian policy has always been based on preserving the fragile balance of peace and stability in international relations. Any attempts to isolate Moscow as a major world power have led to historical defeats and countless deaths, he says.

“During at least the past two centuries any attempts to unite Europe without Russia and against it have inevitably led to grim tragedies, the consequences of which were always overcome with the decisive participation of our country,” Lavrov wrote.

Being the largest country on earth with a unique “cultural matrix,” Russia has always followed its own national interests, Lavrov says. Yet at the same time it has served as a bridge between the East and the West, while Russians have always welcomed and respected numerous religions and cultures.

While welcoming Western ideas and applying them to modernize Russia, Moscow has never allowed itself to be consumed by Western culture. At the same time Moscow has always advocated working with the West to achieve common objectives.

Lavrov stressed the constructive role Moscow has played in European affairs, especially during the Napoleonic Wars, as well as in First and Second World Wars. The influence of the Soviet Union in shaping modern Western values should also not be underestimated, the minister argues, highlighting the USSR’s role in decolonization and shaping the European socio-economic system.

“The Soviet Union, for all its evils, never aimed to destroy entire nations,” Lavrov said. “Winston Churchill, who all his life was a principled opponent of the Soviet Union and played a major role in going from the World War II alliance to a new confrontation with the Soviet Union, said that graciousness, i.e. life in accordance with conscience, is the Russian way of doing things,” he added.

The post-Soviet world, Lavrov argues, offered the unique opportunity for European states to unite with Moscow and work towards a wider and more solid security mechanism in Europe – a mechanism that would enable long-lasting peace on the wider continent.

“Logically, we should have created a new foundation for European security by strengthening the military and political components of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE),” the minister wrote.

Instead of uniting, some European countries chose to ally themselves with NATO and Washington, and once again embarked on the centuries-old matrix of trying to isolate Russia and expand the military alliance’s borders further east, while pursuing a global agenda of regime change and ‘color’ revolutions.

“It is notable that George Kennan, the architect of the US policy of containment of the Soviet Union, said that the ratification of NATO expansion was ‘a tragic mistake,’” Lavrov said.

Rather than serving as architects of peace, NATO and its member states, Lavrov said, continued to engage in destructive policies that threaten international stability and have already led to the collapse of states, starting from the bombings of Yugoslavia, to the invasions of Iraq and Libya.

Arguing that the liberal system of globalization has failed, the minister stressed that the world is standing at a crossroads, where a new system of international relations is taking shape. At such an important historical junction, Lavrov says it is wrong to accuse Russia of “revisionism” just because Moscow refuses to bow or close its eyes to NATO’s policies.

“A reliable solution to the problems of the modern world can only be achieved through serious and honest cooperation between the leading states and their associations in order to address common challenges,” Lavrov wrote.

The most pressing issue in the modern world is the threat of terrorism, which can only be defeated by a united front, he added.

The foreign minister stressed that Russia is not seeking any “confrontation” with the US or the EU. On the contrary, Moscow is and has always been open to “the widest possible cooperation with its Western partners.”

Russia continues to support the notion that the best way to ensure the interests of Europeans would be “to form a common economic and humanitarian space from the Atlantic to the Pacific, so that the newly formed Eurasian Economic Union could be an integrating link between Europe and Asia Pacific.”

BTW...the author would do well in reading the various comments from both Putin and his FM since 2008....this message above has been their main drumbeat theme since 2008 and they have never come off it...clearer messaging one does not always get these days in the FP world......

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 03/09/2016 - 10:26am

NATO in Afghanistan proved unwieldy with too many cooks in the kitchen and the Euro warriors were more interested in keeping the focus on Russia than Afghanistan which meant the logistics through Pakistan were prioritized. The individual bravery of NATO soldiers cannot be denied but Article V helped no one, especially NATO as NATO publics tired of the war.

NATO is responding with a Cold War wish list of big ticket items to break budgets. The unconventional warfare of the Taliban with Pakistani backing under a nuclear umbrella (like Kashmir and the Punjab) is the correct model but NATO doesn't seem to want to look at that. It doesn't serve budgets and it is embarrassing. And that would also put pressure on Eastern European nations to focus on governance and minority rights as well as borders--borders across which there is much licit and illicit traffic of goods and people.

That is what is meant by a re upping of the Cold War, a focus on Cold War type whiz kid technologies over basics like the global, regional and local facets of an insurgency with an outside patron.

NATO didn't figure it out in AfPak, partially to placate various members and NATO associates. How's it going to figure it out in Eastern Europe?


Wed, 03/09/2016 - 11:47am

In reply to by Vicrasta

I appreciate the level of detail and open mindedness in your comment, found all your points very useful, including your correction regarding Afghanistan and Article V! In that particular case, I think I could have more accurately written that if the US continues to use ART V to get our European partners involved in what evolved into a nation building exercise it will eventually delegitimize article V and thereby provide recourse for our partners to vote against supporting the claim. And roger on #freeSavchenko.


Wed, 03/09/2016 - 8:37am

I can certainly appreciate the level of candor contained in this assessment. Below are a few points for discussion:

1. " Russia is at a stalemate against an arguably inferior military in the Ukraine, and is logistically constrained to operations in the Donets Basin, close to its border and overwhelmingly populated by ethnic Russians."

1: A few people here on SWJ have argued the underestimation of Ukraine's regular and irregular fighting force's ability to resist full occupation of the Donbas despite equipment and mission command shortcomings. Other arguments involve the gross miscalculation of ethnic Russian support in the Donbas involving Projekt Novorossiya.

2. " As recent models demonstrate, the Baltic three would be no match for a concerted Russian assault."

2. Additional Baltic Threat Scenarios contained in Ambiguous Threats and
External Influences in the Baltic States (AWG Nov 2015).

-Deliberate and sudden Russian conventional attack on the Baltic States.

-The second scenario involves another Article V situation, but one in which Russia would conduct a more limited incursion.

-The third scenario takes place along similar lines. Russia could conduct limited artillery, air strikes or a raid.

-The fourth scenario involves cyber attacks or Russian intelligence and/or special operations forces in the Baltic States.

-Perpetuation of the status quo until one or both sides could no longer take part.

3. "Further indicators that Russia is relatively unconcerned by security challenges from the Baltic, is that it has made a clear prioritization of resources to its southern military district. It is evidently more concerned over jihadist terrorism in the Caucuses and support for breakaway regions such as Abkhazia, South Ossetia and the Crimea, than it is in diminishing U.S. influence in the Baltics."

3. Caucasus and Central Asia to Become Key Priority for Russian Military in 2016

On 1 January 2016 Gazeta ru (Newspaper) published an article about the future of Russian military operations in 2016. According to the article,
in addition to continued military engagement in Syria and Donbass, the Caucasus (Armenia predominantly) and Central Asia will also become strategically important. Indeed, the article emphasizes that the “Caucasus-2016” strategic exercises will be a critical element the Russian army’s combat training. -OE Watch

4. " Some analysts point to Russia’s operations in Syria as an example of expanded capabilities."

4. Excerpt from unpublished "Regarding the Republic: Understanding Georgia's Contributions to Security through History, Military Reforms and Partnerships"

Independence, Civil War, “Color Revolutions”, and New Generation War: 1988-2008

"Next, this section provides a historical twenty year military centric review of the evolution of 21st century new generation war 3, non-linear or hybrid warfare, in the Caucasus region. New generation war in the region has involved exploitation of political and ethnic vulnerabilities and social strife (prepare/shape), subversion, state supported irregular and hybrid separatist formations (attack), and conflict ceasefire initiatives and justification for peacekeeping operations (strategic stabilization) 4. Precursors for new generation warfare and supra-means combination refinement 5 in Chechnya (First and Second Chechen Wars), Estonia, and Ukraine included, non-military means, protest potential of the population, ethnic and economic manipulation, irregular and regular maneuver forces, and constant external influence as deliberate foreign policy. Lessons learned from the Russo-Georgian War were applied to the War in Donbass, and primarily involved non-military, informational and irregular means (as outlined in this author’s previous article in Small Wars Journal entitled Grading Gerasimov: Evaluating Russian Non-linear War through Modern Chinese Doctrine).

Additionally, gross miscalculations and lessons learned in the Donbas region of Ukraine include the underestimation of population-centric core grievances, separatist support and Ukrainian regular and paramilitary forces fighting ability. The current application of devastating conventional military means in Syria demonstrates the complete advancement of hybrid capabilities. It also demonstrates the potential for more successful applications in all domains, first through escalation dominance, and then through both calculated direct and indirect effects based combinations to reach political objectives.

5. " This argument assumes Europe will have the stomach and means to join us in another non-article V adventure like Iraq or Afghanistan. Europe’s armies are shrinking in both size and capability, as is the political will to support such a campaign."

5. Afghanistan was and is indeed an invocation of Article V.

6. "It is a loud and boisterous bully whose activities are largely constrained to its home turf, and whose approach to its neighbors generates derision and scorn as often as it does awe."

6. Octavian Manea's "The Strategy of Hybrid Warfare" on SWJ highlights regional escalation dominance and NATO's posture.

For years NATO has adopted a defense-in-depth posture, leaving its Eastern Flank exposed. Consequently, NATO promised to secure its Eastern allies through power projection solutions that involve expeditionary forces. Yet in the last few years Russia has invested massively in access-denial capabilities that have the potential to keep at bay expeditionary reinforcements. At the same time Russia has regional escalation dominance in certain points of the Eastern Flank. Russia can cut land access into the Baltics in the so-called Suwalki Gap. Is this added incentive for a revisionist power that has the intent, and now increasingly the capabilities and the ability, to wage low cost irregular warfare campaigns under an A2/AD umbrella, psychologically deterring a NATO response? #FreeSavchenko